Not For Everyone

Social Security Benefits Limited To Married Couples Who Live In A Marriage Equality State

A lot of the DOMA area barriers for married couples are falling, but not all of them. The federal government has decided to limit Social Security benefits to couples who live in states where marriage equality is legal. Married in Massachusetts but live in Pennsylvania? You’re out of luck.

The Social Security Administration had tried to trumpet the fact that it was starting to make benefits available to same-sex married couples. But the fine print is that eligibility for federal benefits depends upon the state in which you live. This was an issue identified immediately in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling in June.

The problem — besides the unfairness of it all — is that the rest of the government isn’t so fussy. The State Department doesn’t care where you live if you and your spouse apply for a visa, and the Pentagon is actually considering leave for gay and lesbian military personnel to travel to get married so that they will be entitled to military spouse benefits no matter where they live. The Labor Department just extended Family and Medical Leave rights to same-sex married couples.

The difference is that the Social Security Administration is hampered by a statute that prevents it from unilaterally offering benefits to all couples. The only way to change the policy would be a legislative solution. Given the crazies in control in the House of Representatives, the odds of that are pretty slim. So, pick where you live carefully. In the case of your Social Security benefits, geography is destiny.

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  • 1EqualityUSA

    This cannot be sustained. It’s an embarrassment for this Country. Equality from Coast to Coast!

  • Geoff B

    The next Supreme Court battle must be over the “full faith and credit” clause of the Constitution. To me at least, this was always the most glaring example of why DOMA was an unconstitutional law to begin with.

  • rextrek whats that mean for me – Married in VT., Live in NJ that has CU? THis country is a disgrace– a Hypocritical Lying disgrace…..Liberty and Justice for all..not so much!!

  • Ottoman

    @Geoff B: There is a well established public policy exception to full, faith, and credit which means that states never have to recognize each others marriages, or any law for that matter, that goes against their own interests. The solution is to get federal heightened scrutiny for sexual orientation in the courts. Then state marriage laws could not exclude gay people, just like they can’t exclude people based on race.

    It took 300 years from the first interracial marriage ban til we got the Loving decision in 1967. A couple more years to sort this mess out is a drop in the bucket time wise. The US also has over 300 million people. name another country with that many people who are farther ahead on gay rights.

    as for New Jersey, this development blows holes in Christie’s assertion that CUs are the same as marriages. I predict NJ will have marriage equality by the fall. I think the court is looking at the case this week.

  • Joetx

    @Ottoman: I don’t care how many people live in the U.S. The U.S. claims to be the Defender of Democracy, the City Upon the Hill, blah blah. As such, there are PLENTY of nations FARTHER ahead on gay rights.

  • 1EqualityUSA

    My mother had an older friend who lived in the Castro, up on 18th and Sanchez. She was horrified to find out that gays were moving into her neighborhood, until she found how beautifully they maintained and improved their homes, gardens, and streets. The value of her property went up in a matter of five years and she was singing a different tune. She got to know some of these new neighbors and adored them. She walked miles every day, meeting her neighbors and talking. They looked out for her and showed her politeness and caring that she never knew from previous neighbors.
    If your state doesn’t recognize equality, move out and become part of a neighborhood that rocks. The two incomes and, sometimes, childless homes offers opportunities to exceed expectations, raise property values, and be seen in a different light. The states that hang on to their bigotry can lose out on creative, hard working, fun people. Bigots can just soak in their hateful, self-satisfied, sanctimonious , homogenized communities and bore themselves to death. May their property values run flat or decline for their exclusionary ways.
    Ottoman and Geoff B thanks for your posts. Food for thought.

  • Ottoman

    @Joetx: and all of those countries have much smaller populations and fewer ignorant jurisdictions to deal with. If we had cut the south loose during the civil war we’d be a heck of a lot better off on everyone’s civil rights. But we didn’t. Unlike Europe, we stuck together as one country–something Europe’s been trying to emulate for 60 years with the EU. The Netherlands doesn’t need Hungary or Poland’s cooperation to grant full federal marriage equality without the courts, but Massachusetts needs Texas, Florida, etc because of their presence in the US congress. The senate is heavily stacked against progressives because they tend to congregate in smaller geographical areas, giving the big dumb flyover states more power than they deserve.

    Even in Europe, the biggest countries are only just now getting marriage equality. Population size matters, if you dont agree, tell us why France, Spain, the UK, and Germany are taking so long? Why did it take tiny Netherlands to start this? And why doesn’t the EU mandate full marriage equality for all its member states? Right now the US has more people living in marriage equality states than any European country. And Canada only has about as many people as California. We’re not doing so bad given we are the third largest country by population in the world.

  • Polaro

    @Geoff B: Exactly.

  • Polaro

    @Ottoman: I think you got that backwards.

  • twoguysbrooklyn

    Queerty: What is your source for this information? I haven’t seen this reported anywhere else. Finance and Employee Benefits people are waiting for IRS guidance on this and other related issues.

  • twoguysbrooklyn

    Queerty: What is your source for this information? I haven’t seen this reported anywhere else. Finance and Employee Benefits people are waiting for IRS guidance on this and other related issues. As of now, no guidance has been published.

  • WOWfactor

    Maybe those queens in the southern states need to quit worrying about their tans and start making change happen at home. Or else live without those federal protections and benefits.

  • Cam

    SS is a Federal Benefit, their marriages are Federally recognized, the SS office is in breach, it is irrelevant what the policy is.

  • jfabz

    @Ottoman: Spain is one of the first countries to recognized full civil marriages in 2003 just before Canada did.

Comments are closed.